(NBC Today – By Toni Tipton-Martin) – Like July Fourth celebrations, Juneteenth is characterized by summer cookout dishes: barbecue, baked beans, deviled eggs, potato salad, cakes and pies. Red-hued foods are classic — red drinks, watermelon and, recently, red velvet cake.

From the very beginning, praying, preaching, playing, singing, storytelling and eating were Juneteenth canons. To embrace the reminders of slavery and poverty — including the gastronomic vestiges like red soda water, catfish and the sweet treats of childhood — can be hard, but to do so is to honor the suffering and affirm the contributions made by generations of freed African Americans.

Fried chicken, for example, is a soul-food tradition that can be traced to the enterprising women who used chicken to build lives for themselves and secure their economic freedom. Serving fried chicken takes on an entirely new meaning when served at Emancipation Day picnics celebrating freedom.

With any luck, the families who share a homemade picnic in the park will recall the artistic spirit and selfless determination of generations of African American cooks who were finally able to decide how they would prepare vegetables and set the time and manner in which the family ate its suppers; they can cheer the restaurateurs who for so long were denied the opportunity to serve.

Click here to get the following recipes (and more!):
Wilted Mixed Greens with Bacon
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Pimento Cheese-Stuffed Deviled Eggs
Collard Greens Salad with Coconut Dressing
Smoked Red Pepper Dip with Grilled Crudités
Red Rice (Tomato Purloo)
Tomato and Watermelon Salad
Slow-Braised Mustard Greens
Sweet Jalapeño-Cheddar Cornbread
Sweet Summer Corn Relish
Braised Cabbage and Carrots
Lace Hoecakes (Skillet Corncakes with Sorghum Butter)
Southern-Style Mac and Cheese